Naomi Watts to Play Landmines Nobel Prize Winner Jody Williams in Movie

by Kenneth Anderson

One further side note to the discussion of Roger’s article in Virginia journal on Nobel Prize winners … I see from some random Reuter’s story on Yahoo news that that actress Naomi Watts is considering signing up to play Jody Williams in a film on her life:

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Naomi Watts is in negotiations to star in “My Name Is Jody Williams,” a drama based on the life of the Nobel Prize-winning campaigner against landmines….  Brash and somewhat controversial, Williams famously called President Bill Clinton a “weenie” for not signing the land mine ban.  The Universal project will be written and directed by Audrey Wells (“Under the Tuscan Sun“).

I wonder how this sort of activity fits into norm entrepreneurship?  In the politics of the international ban campaign, people were of extremely mixed views on celebrity sponsorship and activism.  One the one hand, many people favored it – not precisely star-struck, though many of them were, but quite hard-headed about the advantages of celebrity attention.  

I recall the remarkable (to me at least) negotiations with Princess Diana’s “team” (including her lawyers) to draft a memo of understanding on precisely what her role would be in the landmines ban campaign.  The selection of a charity cause was for her and her staff a completely instrumental and pragmatic activity, brand management, so far as I could tell.  On the other end were people like me, who thought that the cause could carry itself, and that the earnest, sober, uninteresting Swiss war surgeon talking about cutting off children’s legs at the knee would move people more than celebrity, actress or princess would.  But what do I know?  I once thought that a really great TV comedy in the 1990s would be an American military surgeon assigned (in order to get much needed expertise, this being the pre Iraq 1990s) to a roving team of those plucky, happy go lucky, hard partying Swiss doctors out dealing with landmine and other battlefield injuries across the world:  sounded pretty funny to me but, if one needed confirmation that it was not, it sounded pretty funny to my friends at the ICRC, too.

Jody, however, was always very tough about celebrities and basically didn’t think they were value added and that they were a distraction from the cause.  It was certainly my view.  But the campaign was always very divided.  

Again, I’m not quite sure how I think this fits into the model of norm entrepreneurship.  I’ve been writing a draft article this week (iteration 3001 of Anderson’s skeptical thesis of global civil society) about the ideological transformation of “international NGOs” into “global civil society,” and the extremely Jody Williams-esque theory that global civil society “represents” the peoples of the world in a way that states do not, and represents and intermediates for them in the international community and with international organizations …  well, my own view is that this is pretty much entirely false.  The equation of international NGOs with global civil society presumes that global civil society can be analogized to civil society in a domestic democratic society, and it can’t.  Quite apart from all the many critical things that have been said of the representation role for NGOs – and which have caused NGOs in public, if not in private, to back gingerly away from these claims – one of its ill-effects is that it induces organizations actually to be less good at what they do.  Why?  Because if your claim to be a norm entrepreneur is, overtly or covertly, that international decisionmakers should listen to you because you represent people, then what matters is the representation, and not your (we hope) competence, expertise, experience, knowledge and all the other stuff that makes an organization’s views worthy of serious, if not dispositive, consideration.  It is easier to represent people – especially when it is in a wholly notional and abstract sense – than it is to be competent and expert in actual work on the ground.

The theorists of all this have therefore moved several different directions.  Some, like Anne-Marie Slaughter, have essentially accepted the critique that international NGOs don’t represent anyone but themselves and that, as a consequence, global governance must be based out of global government networks, in order to maintain a link to legitimate government.  Others, e.g. Benedict Kingsbury, have moved toward governance not based around political legitimacy as such, but merely technocratic legitimacy of particular networks to accomplish particular tasks in the global community; his theory is pretty much indifferent to whether the participants are governmental, intergovernmental, NGO, or corporate – you have the legitimacy that goes along with doing what you do competently.  But that’s the extent of it.  

Among those most closely associated with the defense of the NGOs, as it were, the move has been to invoke this quasi-new theory of norm entrepreneurship.  On the crucial question of whether global civil society claims that you ought to listen to it because, on the one hand, it is expert and competent and knows whereof it speaks, or alternatively because it represents the ‘peoples of the world’ and its prescriptions should prevail because it speaks on behalf of global citizens, on the other – norm entrepreneurship, it seems to me, elides and obscures that crucial issue.  It seems to say that it is simply about paths of advocacy, what is effective for persuading people – but it does not come out and say explicitly on what basis one should adopt the policies and norms of the norm entrepreneurs: because of their claims of expertise or, alternatively, because of a continuing, if somewhat discredited these days, claim of representativeness.  But they could not be more different, and they lead to sharply different forms and degrees of authority and legitimacy within processes of decisionmaking.  Within the context of today’s debate over the status of international NGOs, norm entrepreneurship is a mechanism of elision.

But forget all that elitist academic pablumic palaver, however.  The real point of this post is just to be clear that in the forthcoming film, I am Ken Anderson, I am to be played by … Daniel Craig.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/10/23/naomi-watts-to-play-landmines-nobel-prize-winner-jody-williams-in-movie/

One Response

  1. Well gee Ken, on what basis do you yourself adopt policies?

    And what’s a society, civil or otherwise?

    People talking and interacting with each other seems clear enough.

    But do David Addington and your friend John Bellinger actually share a culture?

    And is it civil??

    Are they norm entrepreneurs??

    They’ve both been selling something the last few years, that’s for sure.

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